Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity, and Nation, 1916–39

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:00 AM
Room 102 (Hynes Convention Center)
Gabriela F. Arredondo , University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
In this paper, I propose to examine my personal and intellectual engines driving the many years of research and writing that culminated in the publication of my monograph, Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity and Nation, 1916-1939 (Illinois, 2008). The book untangles the complicated ways competing national projects intersected with constructions of race and gender as played out in the context of inter-war Chicago. I focus on Mexicans who traveled through, lived, and remained connected to many parts of the U.S. West (including Texas and California) and Mexico. In doing so the project moves beyond two-dimensional, U.S.-centric limitations toward more nuanced and multidimensional understandings of race, nation, and identity. Moreover, the work is grounded in the gendered dimensions of these processes. I am careful not to fall into the trap of additive method, that is, adding women into an existing historical trajectory. Instead, I treat gender as a deeply complex social system that fundamentally structures everyday life and transforms canonical narratives.

            In doing so, the book reflects a deeply personal quest to understand the process of racial formation – that is, how does a group become raced? Specifically my work seeks to shed light on the ways racialized meaning is experienced in quotidian life and inscribed historically, ways that ultimately determine how and when a group “becomes” a race with real and tangible consequences that necessarily change over time. I am driven by the messiness, the complications of daily lived experiences and the contradictions that are so embedded in how people live their lives.

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